Ensemble for Medieval Music. Benjamin Bagby, Director

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Sequentia celebrates its 40th anniversary in March 2017




Katja Zimmermann

(exclusive of Europe)

Seth Cooper
Seth Cooper Arts Inc.
4592 Hampton Ave.
Montréal, QC, Canada
Tel: 514-467-5052

In association for
Season 2016-2017 with:

Jon Aaron
Aaron Concert Artists 
220 West 148th St. 4J
New York City 10039, NY / USA
Tel: 212-665-0313


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Program Archive

Lost Songs of a Rhineland Harper

IV. The Harper in the Underworld

Felix qui potuit boni

(Rhineland, early 11c)

Another song from the "Consolation of Philosophy" of Boethius. It tells the story of the mythological singer and harper Orpheus, describing his daring voyage into the realm of the dead to rescue his beloved wife, Eurydice, through the power of song. The fact that this song turns up in the Rhineland harper's collection attests to the power of the Orpheus myth in musical circles throughout the early Middle Ages.

Text: (Refrain:) Happy is he who can look into the shining spring of goodness; happy is he who can break the heavy chains of earth.

Long ago the Thracian poet, Orpheus, mourned for his dead wife. With his sorrowful music he made the woodlands dance and the rivers stand still. He made the fearful deer lie down bravely with the fierce lions; the rabbit no longer feared the dog, quieted by his song.

But as the sorrow burned within his breast, the music which calmed all nature could not console its maker. Finding the gods unbending, he went to the regions of hell. There, he sang sweet songs to the music of his harp...songs inspired by his powerless grief and the love which doubled his grief. Hell is moved to pity when, with his melodious prayer, he begs the favour of those shades. The three-headed guardian of the gate is paralyzed by that new song; and the Furies are touched and weep in pity....At last, the judge of souls, moved by pity, declares, "We are conquered. We return this man to his wife, his companion, purchased by his song. But our gift is bound by the condition that he must not look back until he has left hell."But who can give lovers a law? Love is a stronger law unto itself. As they approached the edge of night, Orpheus looked back at Eurydice, lost her, and killed her.

This fable applies to all of you who seek to raise your minds to sovreign day. For whoever is conquered and turns his eyes to the pit of hell, looking into the inferno, loses all the good he has gained.

(Translation: Richard Green [abridged])

Upcoming Concerts

05 October 2017
Paris (FR), Musée de Cluny
Monks Singing Pagans

09 to 13 October 2017
Venice (IT), Fondazione Cini
Seminar Roman de Fauvel

20 April 2018
Konstanz, D
Oswald in Konstanz

See full concert schedule



Benjamin Bagby's recent activities as teacher/lecturer, linked to his performances

At the invitation of the music department, Benjamin taught a performance workshop on the music of Hildegard von Bingen for students at Princeton University (29 March), where he also performed 'Beowulf' in a collaborative production with digital light designer Craig Winslow. Following this, at the invitation of the medieval studies program and the English department, he gave a lecture on his work with reconstructing the 'Beowulf' performance, at Yale University (3 April).

At the Université Paris – Sorbonne, where Benjamin is on the faculty, the yearly 'Entretiens de la musique ancienne' were held this year in honor of his life-long work with reconstructing 'lost songs'. The main event was his performance of 'Beowulf' (11 May), with French video titles, in the Amphithéâtre Richelieu of the Sorbonne, followed by two days of symposium at the university's Centre Clignancourt, sponsored by the historical music organization IREMUS and the musicology department of the university. During this symposium, Benjamin gave a lecture on his work with reconstructed harps and the kinds of clues they can provide ('Beowulf ': dans l'atelier d'un conteur d'histoires).


2017 Barbara Thornton Memorial Scholarship awarded by Early Music America to string-player Allison Monroe

This scholarship is given by EMA to “an outstanding and highly-motivated (and possibly unconventional) young performer of medieval music who seeks to widen his/her experience through more advanced study and/or auditions in Europe.”  The recipient is chosen by a jury of musicians who knew or worked with the great medieval music specialist and teacher, Barbara Thornton (1950-1998), who co-founded Sequentia together with Benjamin Bagby in 1977. Read more about Allison here.

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